March 18, 2024

Delmarva Watermen File Lawsuit Challenging New Rockfish Regulations

Reported on WBOC

Sean Curtis, Lauren Miller
March 8th, 2024

MARYLAND – Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc. (DFA) and Maryland Charter Boat Association (MCBA) have filed a formal lawsuit challenging the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) recent mandates that would reduce recreational fishing limits for striped bass (or rockfish) by more than 50%.

As WBOC’s Lauren Miller previously reported, ASMFC’s new regulations would reduce the recreational catch limit on striped bass from two bass 19-31 inches per person to one fish 19-24 inches per person. The new rules are currently slated to take effect May 1st. On the commercial side, fishermen would face a 7% reduction in harvest limits.

According to the two watermen associations, ASMFC’s new rules would be devastating for their industries and for anyone who relies on the harvesting of striped bass. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, claims ASMFC’s regulations lack any scientific basis, is inconsistent with the Commission’s own findings, and fail to take into account the impact they would have on fishery-dependent industries on the Chesapeake Bay.

“Watermen, waterwomen and charter boat operators already face a huge and growing number of obstacles in their world,” said DFA Chair Captain Rob Newberry. “For them and for all Marylanders it will be a tragedy of epic proportions if this mandate stands. It could mark the beginning of the end of the historic and unique lifestyle of watermen, waterwomen, and charter boat captains in Maryland; many of whom have worked on the Chesapeake Bay all their life and in many instances, so have their parents, grandparents, siblings, and children.”

The lawsuit also maintains the regulations are unconstitutional both federally and at the state level.

ASMFC instituted the new limits in response to what they claim are consistently low rockfish populations in the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has supported the regulations and recent proposition to make them permanent, saying they are necessary to protect breeding females in the striped bass populations.

In addition to the lawsuit, the Delmarva Fisheries Association and Maryland Charter Boat Association have voiced their hope that Governor Wes Moore would intervene on their behalf.

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